Carrizo Springs

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria

December 1870; Carrizo Springs, Texas: Continued Indian raiding from the reservations in Indian Territory in the north, and from Mexico in the south, prompted Texas governor Edmund J. Davis to ask the legislature, in June 1870, to approve the organization of twenty ranger companies. Although the rangers usually provided most of their own equipment, this time the state provided them with breech-loading carbines.

By the end of the year, fourteen companies were ready. H. Joseph Richarz, a former Prussian soldier who had established a sheep and cattle ranch west of San Antonio, was awarded the captaincy of Company E. He moved his unit into the abandoned remains of Fort Inge, on the Leona River south of present-day Uvalde, Texas. Richarz complained of his inability to chase Indian raiders into Mexico. "If it were not for this cursed international law," he wrote, "I know very well what to do to clean out these bloody savages on the other side of the Rio Grande."

By 1870 the Indians were mostly targeting ranchers' cattle. When a band stole cattle from a ranch on Turkey Creek, about twenty miles west of Fort Inge, Richarz and Lt. Sevier Vance were out on scouts, so a Sergeant Eckford and the company physician, Dr. Woodbridge, were the only officers on post. Woodbridge led out fourteen rangers, leaving only one man in camp. The rangers arrived at Turkey Creek and found the Indians' trail leading south.

The Indians were a few days and about fifty miles ahead of the rangers, near Carrizo Springs in present-day northwestern Dimmit County. The raiders, who were Comanches and Kiowas, not Lipans or Kickapoos as supposed, struck another place, the Vivian Ranch, where they killed a man and captured a Mexican boy. They also jumped five cowboys, killing one of them. The same Indians then hit Dave Adams's ranch and killed Adams. Half a mile from Carrizo Springs, nine settlers tried unsuccessfully to fight the raiders. Sweeping past them, the warriors chased a wagonload of settlers back to their homes, then continued down the Nueces River.

When the rangers got to Carrizo Springs, local rancher Edward English told Woodbridge that the Indians were two days ahead of them, but he believed they would come back through when they finished raiding. English said he could lead the rangers to a good hideout several miles west of there, off the trail, where they could spot the Indians on their way back. English took the rangers to the suggested spot and they waited overnight.

The next morning, Woodbridge sent English and rangers Doc Quebum and Joe Brierly east to look for signs of the raiders, then sent two more men to the south. These two discovered the Indians driving a herd of stolen livestock, not on the trail they had taken before, but riding right toward them. The men warned Woodbridge, who quickly had his men mount up for a charge.

It was twelve against sixty, but Woodbridge figured the Texans' Winchesters would level out the odds. The Comanches saw them coming and also charged, and the two forces met on the crest of a ridge. The whooping of the warriors panicked two rangers into turning and running, but the ten remaining stood their ground and clashed at close quarters. Ranger Bedinger (or Belleger) was killed by three bullets in the chest. An Indian clubbed Woodbridge in the neck with his bow, knocking him off his horse, Tom Blakeny and John Whitney stood by the stunned doctor, firing their Winchesters furiously until the barrels became too hot to hold. Whitney finally pulled Woodbridge onto his horse and the two made it back to the others.

The Comanches performed dexterous riding and dodging, but the firepower was telling; nine Indians went down. The little knot of men kept firing until they were dangerously low on ammunition, but by then, the Indians had had enough and pulled away, taking Bedinger's and Woodbridge's horses. Bedinger, the only ranger fatality, was scalped.

When English and his party heard firing, they returned to the camp to find the trail of the Indians who had just battled with Woodbridge. They followed it, thinking the rangers had gone after them. Suddenly, twenty-five Comanches encircled English and the two rangers, but they held them off, shooting a scalp-decorated shield from the arm of one warrior. The warriors rode off. The determined English, Quebum, and Brierly followed, however, and waited by the Indians' camp until nightfall. In the dark, they crept up to the camp to look for Woodbridge. Not finding any trace of him, they assumed that the doctor and the rest of the rangers were dead, and they returned to Carrizo Springs. Woodbridge and his rangers later rode in, to the three men's relief. Everyone agreed that without the Winchesters, they would all have been killed.
Join the discussion

Further reading

Recent Comments